This fall, we participated at Indie Beauty and it taught us a lot about the industry, who we are and the importance of attending trade shows. Trade shows demand more than the few days they are on. Time and monetary commitments are two big factors as a lot goes into it in terms of planning, building (your booth) and scheduling to make it on time and on budget. Based on my experience having attended many Trade Shows in my Corporate life, measuring ROI based on attendance is not the most effective as it can be a ‘hit and miss’ depending on who is there.

Thus, we have summarised the factors that helped in our participation at Indie Beauty Expo and hope they help you if you’re thinking about participating in a trade show.


Before we committed to participating in IBE, we asked ourselves why we wanted to and what we wanted from it, that is we set expectations. It was also important to decide why this particular event in comparison to many other trade shows. Knowing what your key objective is, will allow you to funnel your energy and focus to achieve this particular goal. Ideally set yourself three goals and have them cover different topics so that you have a good balance. Having a clear mind based on your objectives will also help you stay within budget and instill discipline about what you spend on.


Make sure you read the emails and information you receive from the Trade Show event and as soon as the buyer / press list is published, review it. Identify the top 10 buyers and media that you want to meet and do as much research as you can about them. Look into things such as the brands they stock, their shelf display and style, who their key customers are, their values / ethos, their objectives and how these match your customer base, your identity and your values. This will then help you to prioritise on the ones to focus on, address and win over.


Once you know exactly who you’d like to talk to, reach out to them prior to the show and introduce yourself. We secured quite a few meetings by reaching out to buyers in advance, who then came by our stand for a more strategic meeting. It’s a good idea to set up one-on-one meetings because trade shows are loud and full of distractions so a commitment helps tremendously. It’s important to meet the people you want to work with so you can understand and see first-hand if you do indeed have a fit. This is the first step in forming a relationship.


The competition at trade shows is stiff and buyers are time-poor. They want to grasp easily why they should work with you vs. all the other brands out there. Thus practice your pitch till it sounds like a well-oiled machine. While many buyers came to meet us, many only had a bit of time so we had to keep our pitch short and on-point focusing on what makes us different, who we are and how that creates a win-win situation for both of us.

Sometimes despite all that practice, your pitch falls flat. Learn what works and what doesn’t – perhaps you need different pitches for different types of buyers – then keep fine-tuning, keep practicing, keep improving. And remember, a rejection isn’t a life-long divorce and could still turn into an opportunity. Don’t let a failed pitch faze you.


Yes, you’re there for business and want to cut a deal. But events such as these are excellent places to network and form new relationships and strengthen existing ones. No brand is an island and relationships, even with the competition, are important. So don’t forget your social hat. Talk to fellow trade show participants, share your experience, give and ask for recommendations regarding best practices. You’d be surprised at how much people are willing to share.

After the show, reconnect and meet-up periodically to see what new projects other exhibitors might be working on. The more you get to know people, the more you’ll feel comfortable and eventually, trade shows become less stressful and more joyful. After all, we all enjoy seeing familiar faces and catching up with people we know; it doesn’t matter if they turn into a business relationship or not. 


This may seem silly, but don’t forget to have fun. Try to treat trade shows as a “workation” – you’re there to expand your experience and contribute to your business but you also get to spend a few days away from your normal day-to-day. Explore opportunities and make some friends while you’re at it.

GOOD LUCK to you at your first or next Trade Show!